Saturday, September 29, 2012

NYRA Situation Sounds All Too Familiar

--by Kelsey Riley

While ­reading Bill Finley’s Op/Ed titled “NYRA Is For Sale. But Who Would Want It?” In Friday’s TDN, I admittedly felt chills run down my spine when I read the following excerpt:

   “There’s every reason to believe that this anti-racing governor who keeps hoovering cash from casino companies will find a way to cut racing out of the equation, whether that means taking VLT revenue away from the track operator or from purses or from both. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued what was a scary threat back in August when releasing an audit of VLT racino revenues. ‘We are unable to determine whether the millions of dollars that pay for increased purses (prize money), rather than for education, are having their intended effect.’”

   (for the full Op/Ed column, click here).

   For anyone who has kept a close eye on the racing business over the last few months, and years, there are some keys phrases here that are all too familiar.

   Last year while interning at the TDN, I wrote a magazine feature on what was then the future of New York racing: the Aqueduct racino (click here to read). I have to admit upon starting the project I wasn’t fully convinced that a racino would solve all the State’s woes. Therefore, I asked administrators the hard questions: what would stop the government from tweaking the agreement and encroaching on NYRA’s share of the VLT revenues, such as we had already seen in Pennsylvania and Indiana at the time? I was assured by a number of parties that the NYRA racetracks were different from most others, because NYRA is a not-for-profit organization, and its arrangement with the State created “layers of legislation” that would make it difficult for the government to alter the agreed upon distribution of the VLT revenues. So long as Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga were being run by NYRA, the VLT revenues would be safe. I was told that NYRA and Genting had modeled the racino after Woodbine’s (also run by a not-for-profit), so what could go wrong?

   As we have learned this year from Woodbine, a lot can go wrong, and very quickly. In early March, the Ontario government announced they were considering pulling racing’s 20% share of the revenues from the Slots at Racetracks agreement, which had fuelled purses and breeders awards at the province’s Thoroughbred and Standardbred tracks for more than 15 years. Just a few weeks later, the government officially ended the Slots at Racetracks program, throwing the industry (and particularly the breeding sector) into turmoil. Stallion nominations were cancelled left, right and center, a handful of stallions have since been exported from the province, and the Ontario-bred yearling sale earlier this month experienced significant declines. What is more, it has been truly disheartening how the government has fabricated outright lies to justify its behavior to the public: they have described the racetracks’ cut of the slots revenues ($345 million a year) as a “subsidy” to rich racetrack owners, and they have depicted these “rich racetrack owners” as taking money away from education for school children and healthcare for the elderly. The truth is that the racetracks’ 20% was used to fuel purses and breeders awards, which stimulated growth in the breeding industry and therefore had positive reverberations across the province’s agricultural industry. Growth of the racing and breeding industries also allowed them to spend nearly $2 billion annually within the province. Furthermore, these “subsidies” were in fact a revenue-sharing agreement, because Ontario’s racetracks provided the government existing infrastructures in which to build its casinos. The racing industry’s share of the revenue also offered some compensation for the risk that casino players would take away from racing’s wagering customers.  

   While the distribution of revenues from the Aqueduct racino have yet to be altered, my point is that recent developments show that it may not be all that difficult for it to happen. Look how easy it was for Cuomo to demand that NYRA be sold, when it was under contract to run racing in New York for 25 years. At this point nothing is set in stone, and we can only guess what future operation of the NYRA tracks will look like, but to me, the situation (as well as wording in recent reports, like Finley’s) are eerily similar to what we have seen in Ontario. I certainly hope I am wrong.   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Week 15

Part 14 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.  
 Ally and her trainer Carole had a week off from being in my blog spotlight, and when I returned to see them at San Sue Acres this Tuesday, some things had changed. Jackets replaced summer clothes. Horses played in the cool morning air, with steam blowing out of their nostrils. Ally-Gator (Jockey Club name Thewifedoesntknow) had sprouted a little bit of winter fuzz. Her coat is still very fine and soft, but it had a velvety feel and a rich color. She put on more weight and muscle since I saw her last. 

 When I photographed Ally's training session in Week 12, I noted that she had gained confidence from her schooling session at the horse show. During her ride this week, I saw that same confidence. Things that were once difficult are now easy. New challenges are met with enthusiasm.
 Trot sets are fluid and balanced. Canter work shows the mare's education and finesse. And the jumping? What can I say... the mare's a natural.

Last week, Ally graduated from cross rails to a few verticals. I love their approach in this photo- Carole has a loop in her reins so Ally can stretch her neck and bascule over the jump. But she did not throw everything away- she has her leg on the mare to guide her to the fence.
The way Ally jumps shows me that she is capable of jumping much higher fences. She jumps with enthusiasm, but never loses her cool; she is focused and very interested in her job.
During their ride, Carole worked on a course interspersed with verticals, cross rails, and single poles. The poles were excellent training tools, because they helped Ally place herself for successful approaches to the jumps. A few times, she found herself in a long spot, but took the distance with the confidence that her trainer gave her.
After their jump schooling, Carole asked Ally for a little hand gallop work. Ally responded with alacrity. All this jumping and cantering is fun!

The chilly morning air gave Ally a spring in her step. She purred excitedly during her ride, and Carole worked with the mare's extra energy instead of fighting against it.
After her workout, Ally was relaxed and content. Although her career has changed, Carole kept the consistent schedule that Ally had at the racetrack. Many Thoroughbreds thrive on a routine, and they are most happy when they are challenged with quality work. This mare is no exception, and it is plain to see that she loves her new job.

Horses and Hope 2013 Calendar
With the help of Gina Keesling of HoofPrints, my 2012 debut calendar contained over 100 photos of auction horses. Thanks to the support of horse lovers all over, it raised nearly $40,000 for One Horse At A Time, helping hundreds of horses in need directly, and untold others indirectly through increased public awareness. Now that we have one calendar's worth of experience to draw upon, the 2013 version promises to be even more exciting, even more creative, and as always, inspirational and positive

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Aussie Group 1 Has American Flavor

--by Kelsey Riley

With the first Group 1 of the year already in the books, the Australian spring racing season is in full swing. Last weekend, race goers at Rosehill in Sydney were treated to a thrilling one-two finish by Darley stable mates Epaulette (Aus) (Commands {Aus}) and Albrecht (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}) in the G1 Golden Rose S., and this weekend the Group 1 action continues at Randwick in Sydney and Caulfield in Melbourne. Caulfield will host the enticing G1 Underwood S. over 1800m for 3-year-olds and older. This event has drawn top Australian-based gallopers Manighar (Aus) (Linamix {Fr}), Southern Speed (Aus) (Dubawi {Ire}), and Sincero (Aus) (Umatilla {Aus}), but also featured among the entrants are two runners with strong American ties.

Winchester (Theatrical {Ire}), winner of last year’s GI Sword Dancer and the 2010 GI Manhattan and GI Turf Classic Invitational, will make his debut Down Under. The 7-year-old has compiled a truly international record. He made his first five starts in Europe for trainer Dermot Weld, breaking his maiden in his second start in Ireland. After finishing a well-beaten 7th in the G1 Irish Derby, Winchester turned the tables in his stateside debut, winning the 2008 GI Secretariat S. by 7 ¼ lengths. After two subsequent (and unsuccessful) American starts, Winchester was turned over to trainer Christophe Clement. It was nearly two years before Winchester won again, but after getting back to his winning ways in a Keeneland allowance event in April 2010, he added two more Grade I victories that year. After a fourth place finish in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, Winchester travelled to Hong Kong for the G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase, where he was a well-beaten 11th. He redeemed himself by winning last year’s Sword Dancer, and early this year was announced as retired by his owner/breeders, Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone. As it would turn out, the star turfer was picked up by Anthony Mithen’s Rosemont Stud in Australia as a G1 Melbourne Cup prospect and is now trained in Melbourne by John Sadler (the Australian version).

The second American interest is Sanagas (Ger) (Lomitas {GB}). Although he is German-bred and recorded his first five starts (for four wins) in that country as a 4-year-old, Sanagas was transferred to the States in the middle of his 5-year-old campaign by owner Andreas Jacobs, and entrusted to trainer Graham Motion. Sanagas went on to have a very productive season, recording wins in the Johns Call S. and the GIII Sycamore S. before tallying his most important win to date in the GI Hollywood Turf Cup. After a sixth place finish in his seasonal debut in the GII San Marcos S. at Santa Anita Feb. 11 for trainer Peter Miller, Sanagas was sold to the BC3 Thoroughbreds partnership in Australia. He joined the barn of the legendary Aussie conditioner Bart Cummings, and finished 13th in his Aussie debut over this strip in the G2 Memsie S. Sept. 1.

While these two former American gallopers should be well regarded by Aussie punters, as mentioned previously it will certainly not be a cakewalk for them. Manighar, Southern Speed and Sincero are among the highest rated horses in that country, and should all be doing well fitness wise with solid runs under their girths already this prep. In fact, it was Sincero who won the Memsie that Sanagas participated in. Maluckyday (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}) a consistent Group 1 galloper and one of the early favorites for the Melbourne Cup, was eighth in the Memsie. Niwot (Aus) (Galileo {Ire}), a Group 1 winner early this year, was 12th that day. Ocean Park (NZ) (Thorn Park {Aus}), second in last year’s G1 Rosehill Guineas, won his seasonal debut in New Zealand in the Challenge S. Sept. 1. It is important to note that most of these horses are considered route specialists, and it is normal in Australia for trainers to build their horses up to running longer distances throughout a prep. Therefore a race like the Memsie (at 1400m {7 furlongs}) would have been far from ideal for a number of its competitors (including Sanagas), and it is important to watch how these horses come into shape as they step up in distance throughout the season.

For the form for the Underwood, click here.

Across the country in Sydney, eight will line up for the 1600m G1 George Main S. at Randwick. Americans will likely best resonate with All Too Hard (Aus) (Casino Prince {Aus}), the 3-year-old half-brother to Black Caviar who excited race goers with three straight wins to begin his career last season. The colt appeared to falter when stepped up to top class competition, however, and is winless in his last three starts. He has not been beaten far, however, and he gets a break in the weights of up to 19 pounds from his rivals. His older sister didn’t reach her best stride until later in life, so it probably isn’t wise to throw this guy out yet. The George Main will certainly be a tough task, though, as razor sharp trainer Chris Waller brings three, including Group 1 winner Shoot Out (Aus) (High Chaparral {Ire}), who makes his first start of the season off a strong trial win Sept. 10. Although stablemate Danleigh (Aus) (Mujahid) doesn’t boast quite as flashy a record, he appears to be coming into excellent form, and could be interesting here. Secret Admirer (Aus) (Dubawi {Ire}) was a very consistent galloper in Group company last season, and returns to the track and trip of her career best score last season in the G1 Epsom S., so should not be discounted.

For the form for the George Main, click here.

The Underwood will go off at 1:40 am Eastern time Saturday morning, and the George Main at 2:00 am. So if you're able to stay awake, it will be worth tuning in to TVG to watch!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Horses and Hope: Mimi's Story

Part 2 in Sarah Andrew's Horses and Hope series, an uplifting look at how the equine community helps local horses in need.

Since January 2010, I've photographed well over 3,000 horses in need at rescues, private farms, and the auction. All the horses, donkeys, and mules are unique, but some of them have that extra-special "something", like Mimi.
Camelot Auction, October 12, 2010. The little sorrel mare did not have any other buyers on auction night, and she sold to the feedlot. The description from the Camelot Horse Weekly auction night volunteers on listed her as follows:

"Hip #66: Sorrel Mare 14.3h. 4 yrs, rode thru calm, one blue eye the one she kept closing, when I blocked the light, she opened it, she is very sweet and thin. $260.00"

The following day, I photographed all of the available horses at the auction, including Hip #66. Her eye was still runny, crusty, and irritated. While I was working on photos, Bill Fox and Bev Goff of Handy Acres in Jackson, NJ arrived at the auction to look at some horses. Bev told me she was looking at the little mare with the bad eye. I pointed out her companion, Hip #69, a dapper-looking black gelding who with very similar markings, but Bev was drawn to the mare.
Bill and Bev named the mare Mimi and brought her home, where she spent the winter at Handy Acres dining on an all-you-can-eat hay buffet, under a cozy stable rug. Within a day or two, her eye cleared up. Her vision was perfect.
Although Mimi had very minimal training and was barely broke to saddle, she was one of those horses who took everything in stride, from Santa hats to the busy wintertime indoor arena.  
Mimi matured and blossomed in Bev's care, and in the spring, her winter coat shed out, revealing a deep chestnut color. As she was schooled under saddle, she showed versatility and trainability. She boldly led nervous horses on trail rides. She carefully carried young riders, happily going both English and western. She stood like a statue one cold night when Bev was injured by another horse's kick and waited for an ambulance.
This summer, Bev and Mimi started a new chapter in their journey together, and began training for western pleasure classes. On Sunday, they did their first-ever show together. It was Mimi's second time off the farm property, but she handled the new surroundings with style.
As they waited for their classes at the show, Mimi looked like a seasoned show horse, and her calm demeanor settled her rider's nerves.
The judge rewarded Mimi's consistency and responsiveness to Bev's cues. They placed 2nd and 3rd in their classes, and tied for Reserve Champion. Bev saw Mimi's inner sparkle two years ago in the pen at the auction, and now we can all see her beauty. Once a $260 horse with a runny eye, Mimi is now a priceless barn favorite, loved by all.
 I asked Bev for a few words about Mimi, and this is what she had to say:

"It's hard to know where to start with the story of It's All About Me, aka Mimi. It was said that she was blind in one eye, and we were looking for a lesson horse, so she wasn't what we were looking for. But when I looked at Mimi, something in my heart said that she is the one. For $260.00, we brought her home, and our journey began. 

A day after she came home from the auction, her eye cleared up and her vision was perfect. She is one of the smartest mares I have ever had the chance to work with; she has gone from packing 8-year-olds around to saving me from a serious injury. She has gone from English to the western pleasure ring. There is nothing this mare cannot do, and she does it all with ease and beauty. Mimi is my world, and I am so grateful every day that she is a part of my life. Mimi and I wouldn't be together if it wasn't for Bill Fox (of Handy Acres). I love them both." -Bev Goff

 Mimi is one of the many horses featured in my 2013 Horses and Hope calendar. With the help of Gina Keesling of HoofPrints, my 2012 debut calendar contained over 100 photos of auction horses. Thanks to the support of horse lovers all over, it raised nearly $40,000 for One Horse At A Time, helping hundreds of horses in need directly, and untold others indirectly through increased public awareness. Now that we have one calendar's worth of experience to draw upon, the 2013 version promises to be even more exciting, even more creative, and as always, inspirational and positive


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Horses and Hope: Georgia's Story

-Sarah Andrew

Since January 2010, I've photographed well over 3,000 horses in need at rescues, private farms, and the auction. All the horses, donkeys, and mules are special, but some of them have that extra-special "something". Georgia is one of those extra-special horses.

In February of 2012, I took a ride to a farm with Lisa Post, Co-Founder and President of Helping Hearts Equine Rescue. Lisa remembers the day and our trailer ride home very well:

"Sarah and I picked up Georgia on Feb 2, 2012. She was an NJ SPCA neglect case that needed direct intake. The lack of sufficient feed and hay at the premises was quite evident and I was happy that we could help this girl. 

The defining moment of the situation was watching Georgia's eyes light up when she saw my straw-bedded trailer. I quietly told her that there was better than that in the hay net inside. I doubt my words meant anything to her, but she loaded right up and dove into the net. 

We didn't hear a peep during the hour-plus ride until we were almost home, when she started pawing. Upon arrival, we noted that the net was nearly empty, except for the last bit that she couldn't reach. The pawing was explained. 

All Georgia needed for the next several weeks was frequent feedings and affection. She received both from all who met her. Georgia, even severely emaciated, had a "shine" to her- a glimmer of what she was and would be again, and despite the neglect she had endured, she was a happy and personable mare. 

Kathy, who had previously adopted another mare, Sweetie, from Helping Hearts, saw that shine as well. She came and spent time and groomed her and soon offered to foster Georgia, subsequently adopting her. Under Kathy's fantastic care, Georgia has come into her full glory and I wish these two ladies a long and pleasurable partnership.

Georgia is just one example of what rescue can accomplish. But rescue can't happen in a vacuum. It really does take a village. Working together, we can accomplish a lot for horses in need."

Over the next few weeks, I took a series of photos of Georgia's progress. The dates are on the photos so you can follow the time lapse.

This August, I visited Georgia in her new home. The horse who stood before me was a gorgeous, glorious, picture-perfect Quarter Horse. She was her same friendly self that she was the day I met her, but her body finally matched her bright expression.

These photos tell the story better than I can...   


 Horses and Hope 2013 Calendar
Georgia is one of the many horses featured in my 2013 Horses and Hope calendar. With the help of Gina Keesling of HoofPrints, my 2012 debut calendar contained over 100 photos of auction horses. Thanks to the support of horse lovers all over, it raised nearly $40,000 for One Horse At A Time, helping hundreds of horses in need directly, and untold others indirectly through increased public awareness. Now that we have one calendar's worth of experience to draw upon, the 2013 version promises to be even more exciting, even more creative, and as always, inspirational and positive